ATTACKS and verbal abuse suffered by ambulance workers has become a daily occurrence, says a campaigner raising awareness of the problem.

Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) figures show some 230 incidents were reported in Wales over the first six months of 2020, a number taking place while crews were coping with the extra pressures caused by coronavirus.

The figure is up on the 165 recorded for the same period in 2019. A spokeswoman has said the increase is due to more incidents being reported.

Campaigner Stefan Cartwright, who works in the Gwent area, says attacks on ambulance workers is a “massively rising problem” across the UK, and workers do not have time to report every single incident of abuse they suffer.

The ambulance technician, winner of the ‘outstanding achievement’ accolade at the South Wales Argus Health & Care Awards last year, has been assaulted twice himself. He has been raising awareness of the issue, supporting colleagues who have suffered attacks and pressing for harsher punishments for attackers.

“Even though the law has changed, I don’t know if there’s a feeling that there’s too much paperwork or whatever, but to me there’s a reluctance by the police to take these cases forward, and that’s where the frustration lies,” said Mr Cartwright.

“Nobody wants to be assaulted, no matter what they do for a living. We all have a part to play in society. A lot of the abuse we suffer isn’t reported - if we took the time to report every single incident when somebody was abusive, the service would be inundated.

“Sadly, abuse towards emergency and medical workers is happening daily. It almost feels it’s normal, part of the job, but it shouldn’t be.”


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WAST says there were 23 court prosecutions for assaults on staff in 2019, 22 in front of magistrates and one in crown court, resulting in nine custodial and four suspended sentences.

To June this year, some 12 cases were prosecuted, resulting in four custodial and three suspended sentences.

Mr Cartwright is encouraged by some UK ambulance trust chief executives who have challenged punishments they believe to be too lenient, often resulting in tougher sentences. He is looking forward to the resumption of various initiatives to combat abuse once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Claire Vaughan, WAST’s executive director of workforce and organisational development, says: “Our staff do a difficult job, often working in emotionally testing circumstances. Being exposed to assaults or any other inappropriate behaviour is totally unacceptable.

“We appreciate that when you or your loved one is ill or injured, it can be a stressful situation and that can, on occasion, influence behaviour. But violence against our crews is never acceptable and while thankfully, serious incidents such as this are isolated, our staff have every right to ask the public to respect and protect the work our crews are trying to do. We are extremely proud of our staff and their unwavering commitment to serve communities across Wales, and we will continue to maintain a zero tolerance approach when our people are confronted with violent behaviour or aggression, working with the police and CPS to pursue assailants through the court system.”

Stefan was nominated for a South Wales Argus Health and Care Award by the public service union UNISON. Mark Turner, UNISON’s lead for ambulance staff in Wales, says verbal and physical abuse is unacceptable.

“It’s shocking to think that despite the public clapping heroes like ambulance staff for months throughout the covid lockdown, some people think they’re fair game for assaults,” he says. “These figures are depressing.

“UNISON is pleased the ambulance trust is taking serious action against those who attack their staff. I’m sure most would agree that’s not acceptable.”